Oral Histories

Interview of Harwell Hamilton Harris

Mid-century modern Southern California-based architect.
The Organic View of Design
Interviews not in a series, part one
Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Design
Biographical Note:
Mid-century modern Southern California-based architect.
Stonefield, Judy
Harris, Harwell Hamilton, 1903-
Persons Present:
Harris and Stonefield.
Place Conducted:
Harris's home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Judy Stonefield, B.A., education, UCLA.Stonefield prepared for the interview by viewing several of Harris's houses, reading articles written by Harris, and viewing videotapes in which Harris discusses his architecture and philosophy.
Processing of Interview:
Teresa Barnett, editorial assistant, edited the interview. The verbatim transcript was checked against the original tape recordings and edited for punctuation, paragraphing, spelling and verification of proper nouns. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed. The final manuscript remains in the same order as the taped material.In September, 1984, the edited transcript, along with a list of queries and names requiring identification, was sent to Harris. He approved the transcript and returned it in November of the same year.The index, table of contents, interview history and biographical summary were prepared by George Hodak, editorial assistant.
7 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Genealogy of Harris's ancestors--Harris 's parents settle in Redlands, California--Memories of his father--More on the Harris family history.
High school in San Bernardino--Impact of World War I on rural California--Attends Pomona College and Otis Art Institute--First exposure to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright--More on studies at Pomona College and Otis Art Institute--Developing interest in art.
Interest in painting and sculpture--Joins the Los Angeles Art Students League--Discovers Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House.[Second Part] (August 22, 1979)Meets R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra--Decides against returning to college--Studies and works with Richard Neutra--Work in connection with the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM).
Work on designs for Neutra's Rush City Reformed--Work on the Lehigh Portland Cement airport competition--Comparing the work of Schindler and Neutra--The influence of California's geography and climate on Harris's work.
The lure of California for early settlers--The particular character of California living--On Louis Sullivan--The influence of Frank Lloyd Wright on Harris--Remembering Frank Lloyd Wright.
Assessing Wright's later work--Working with Gregory Ain--Mixing the influences of Wright and Neutra--On Irving Gill--Breaking away from Neutra and establishing his own practice--Harris's first house: the Lowe House--Collaboration with Carl Anderson--The impact of the Depression on the progress of Harris's architectural practice.
The Laing House--The General Electric competition: the theft of Harris's designs--Subsequent publicity and support given to Harris by California Arts and Architecture--The role of architectural journals in promoting California architects--Designs a house for John Entenza--The utility core.
More on the utility core: its influence on housing--Jean Harris, her background and various interests--Jean Harris's efforts to secure recognition for the work of Greene and Greene--Jean Harris's interest in work of Bernard Maybeck--The influence of Greene and Greene on Harris's designs--Schindler's Kings Road House--Schindler's interpretation of California living.
The direction of architecture in California before and after World War II--The postwar housing boom in California--Neutra's finger plan school--Shifts in Neutra's design and work patterns--Harris's technical education--Encounters with immigrant architects: Sigfried Giedeon and José Sert--Work with the CIAM on postwar relief and planning.
The limited influence of the International Style on Harris's work--On working with a client--The organic view of design--On the Utopian impulse in modern architecture.